The Independent Isle of Man Covid Review is an in-depth analysis of the Government’s handling of the pandemic. It was set up following Tynwald’s decision that a review was required. The Review Team operates at arms’ length from Government and all other institutions, and the Chair alone determines who to speak to, and what material to gather. The Review will look at a wide range of matters including border closures, business support, financial support for individuals, the vaccination programme, school closures and so on.
The pandemic had a devastating impact on many on the Isle of Man, affecting communities, families and individuals. Although the Isle of Man was less affected than some of its neighbours, over a hundred people died, and many are still experiencing long-term ill-health. The disruption made its way into all aspects of life, including education, business and freedom of movement. The Isle of Man Government had to respond at speed to an unprecedented situation.
The Covid Review will:
- Investigate and record what happened
- Investigate and record the rationale for various decisions
- Evaluate decisions and actions
- Evaluate structures and processes
- Identify where lessons can be learned from the Covid pandemic on the Isle of Man
- Identify good practice
- Make recommendations
The focus of the Independent Review is the Government response to the Covid pandemic. In order to evaluate that response, the Review will want to hear about the effect of Government decisions on individuals, schools, businesses and others living and working on the Isle of Man. For more information about how the Review will operate please see the ‘How We Work’ page.
The Review Chair is Kate Brunner KC, an experienced Barrister and part-time judge. She began work setting up the Independent Review in September 2022. On Ms Brunner KC’s appointment, the Minister for Home Affairs, Jane Poole-Wilson MHK said:
“An extensive recruitment process was undertaken in May 2022 to identify a suitably qualified and experienced Chair for the Review, and a selection panel formed jointly by Council of Ministers and the Public Accounts Committee considered a number of candidates. The panel recommendation that Kate Brunner KC be appointed Chair of the Covid Review was approved by the Council of Ministers on 28 July 2022.”
In response to her appointment, Ms Brunner KC said:
“This will be an entirely independent process, with a focus on drawing out lessons to be learned so that the island can become even more resilient to any future pandemics or similar crises.
I recognise the importance of hearing from individuals and groups about how they were affected, as well as investigating Government procedures and decision-making.”
Ms Brunner KC has appointed an experienced team to work alongside her on the Review, including experts and researchers.
What is an Independent Review?
This is an Independent Review. It is not a Statutory Inquiry. A Statutory Inquiry, also called a Public Inquiry, is a specific type of investigation set down under the Inquiries (Evidence) Act 2003. Reviews and Inquiries are both independent processes to investigate an event or situation. The principal four differences between an Independent Review and a Statutory Inquiry are:
One: The Process of gathering evidence
In general, a Statutory Inquiry sits like a court room.
Witnesses give evidence, one-by-one.
The procedures in a Review are not as formal, and the Chair of a Review can use any procedures which are likely to generate useful and accurate information such as focus groups and public drop-in meetings, as well as formal interviews.
Two: Public access
In general, a Statutory Inquiry is a process held in public, whereas a Review is not.
Three: Legal Representation
In Statutory Inquiries various core participants have lawyers, who make representations to the Inquiry.
A Review process is less formal, and lawyers are not required.
Four: Legal Powers
In Statutory Inquiries there is a power to compel people to give evidence.
A Review Chair does not have the power to compel people to cooperate, but where appropriate can publicise names of those who do not accept requests to participate.
The Decision to Commission an Independent Review
There was discussion in Tynwald in November 2021 about whether a Statutory Inquiry or Independent Review was the most appropriate process for this investigation.
Concerns were expressed that a formal Statutory Inquiry would be a very expensive and time-consuming option, likely to cost many millions of pounds and take years to complete.
Tynwald unanimously agreed that an Independent Covid Review should be held instead, which will allow for a report to be completed during a shorter timeframe at a lower cost to the taxpayer.
The Chair of the Review can make a recommendation to Tynwald to hold a Statutory Inquiry if she considers that to be necessary in relation to some of the areas examined.
She will do so if she considers that she has been unable to reach sound conclusions on a topic because of the absence of a witness or a document, and if she considers that the Terms of Reference can only be met in full using the Statutory Inquiry powers.